Sexual unfaithfulness can be judged with some accuracy from men's but not women's faces

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We routinely make judgements of trustworthiness from the faces of others. However, the accuracy of such judgements remains contentious. An important context for trustworthiness judgements is sexual unfaithfulness. Accuracy in sexual unfaithfulness judgements may be adaptive for avoiding reproductive costs associated with having an unfaithful partner. Indeed, emerging studies suggest that women, and to a lesser degree, men, show above-chance accuracy in judging sexual unfaithfulness from opposite-sex faces. In the context of mate guarding, it is important not only to assess the likelihood of a partner defecting, but also to detect same-sex poachers. Therefore, here, we examine whether individuals can also judge sexual unfaithfulness (self-reported cheating and poaching behaviour) from same-sex faces. We found above-chance accuracy in judgements of unfaithfulness from same-sex faces in men but not women. Conversely, we found above-chance accuracy for opposite-sex faces in women but not men. Therefore, both men and women showed above-chance accuracy, but only for men's, and not women's, faces. Raters were making accurate (above-chance) judgements of unfaithfulness from men's faces using facial masculinity, a well-established signal of propensity to adopt short-term mating strategies. In summary, we found above-chance accuracy in impressions of unfaithfulness from men's faces. Although very modest, the level of accuracy could nevertheless have biological significance as an evolved adaptation for identifying potential cheaters/poachers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number181552
Number of pages13
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019


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